The debate over the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is heating up, but the situation remains very fluid. Recent statements by President Obama, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and key Democratic Senators reflect continued public support for EFCA. Most notably, yesterday, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Penn.) announced at his speech to the AFL-CIO that he, Sens. Harkin (D-Iowa), Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) have “pounded out” a compromise with labor leaders that he believes will lead to the passage of a bill “before the year is out…which will be totally satisfactory to labor.” However, late yesterday Sen. Specter’s office backpedaled and said Specter was simply being optimistic about a compromise and clarified, “there’s no deal, so [there’s’ no language to share.” Sen. Harkin now is also denying that a deal has been reached, as is organized labor.

The “deal” Sen. Specter outlined would not include the controversial “card check” provision, which would allow workers to organize by signing union authorization cards instead of having to hold secret-ballot elections. Other apparent compromise solutions included:

  • Sharp limits on the time between organizers' declaration that they have enough support to call an election and the day of the vote. Such expedited "quickie" elections would require a secret ballot election within five to 21 days after the filing of an election petition demonstrating 30 percent of the workers had signed cards asking for a union. Currently, the median time for an election is 38 days, so the proposed revision would significantly shorten the period an employer could get out its message.
  • Guaranteed access for union organizers to workers if employers hold mandatory anti-union meetings on company time.
  • Triple existing penalties for employers who violate labor law rules.
  • "Last best offer arbitration" – the approach used in baseball arbitration, in which the mediator has to pick one offer or the other, which encourages the negotiators to offer a reasonable deal. Such a mandatory arbitration provision is at least as threatening to employers, if not more threatening, than "card check."